The changing nature of business and marketing across manufacturing and heavy industry.

Through a combination of passion, circumstance, and hard work, The Measured Marketer has had the privilege to carve out a niche driving the marketing efforts for some of the Hunter’s – and arguably Australia’s – leading manufacturing and heavy industry-based organisations.

We are often asked what we are noticing as common challenges, trends and opportunities across our portfolio, so with this in mind – and 2021 fast approaching a close – we thought we would share some of our learnings here in the hope it helps provoke ideas and discussion for 2022… or at the very least provide some comfort through shared experiences in 2021.

The changing way we do business

This has been discussed by many commentators through the lens of COVID, so we don’t want to re-hash the narrative too much, but specifically with our client base we have seen a few key trends:

  • The adoption of virtual environments – but not just for events, conferences and meetings. We have successfully run workshops and learning events via a range of online tools across the year – both covering topics and working with teams that we never thought would be suited to the formats. Yes – it’s hard work. And yes – it’s difficult to keep up enthusiasm. But it can be done, and we won’t be shying away from it even as face-to-face slowly becomes the norm again.

  • Seeking innovation with greater gusto than ever. We’ve all heard the “pivot” stories of the last two years, where businesses were forced to change or found opportunities to exploit, however we are seeing a more engrained focus on innovation and optimisation across our client base. There is an openness to ideas – from within and outside their business – that we have not necessarily seen before. People are willing to ‘test and learn’ to get things to market more quickly than before, that can then be appropriately enhanced and refined as time goes on.

  • Shorter planning cycles. The very nature of what we have all experienced means, both within business and our personal lives, we have come to accept that it’s difficult to plan next week, let alone the next 2 to 3 years. We are working with businesses on shorter-term plans, but we are also still acutely aware of clients’ long-term visions for their organisations. These remain, it’s just the steps we take to reach them are potentially broken down into smaller ‘chunks’ than before – and with flexibility to shift as change is required.

When it comes specifically to marketing within the sectors we support, some of the standouts for us include:
  • The use of QR codes. Years ago, us marketers would encourage our clients to test QR codes that you could put on traditional marketing materials, such as brochures and posters to help provide an easy way to access more information than you could ever possibly hope to share in a static, print environment. Perhaps one or two organisations we worked with were willing to try it. Now – it’s game on. And they are proving their worth both on the information sharing side as well as the tracking and reporting side (which of course we love).

  • The value of quality imagery and videography – especially when trying to demonstrate products and services to those who can’t get near them. We’ve seen clients, and those in our wider circles, harnessing 3D animations to demonstrate the features and functions of large, highly complex machinery. We’ve undertaken photoshoots to profile team members who can’t get out and about, as well as facilities to demonstrate scale and stock levels available to support their end clients. Even virtual reality – which is still a little bit ‘out there’ – is getting within the reach of our client base. Think tours of factory floors. Showing machinery in underground mines. Walking around a showroom. It’s now something business leaders are open to and thinking about when it comes to how they provide as many ways as possible for potential clients to see their solutions in action.

  • The value of your website. We have talked endlessly about the absolute importance of the “digital shopfront” to all businesses, but sometimes for those in manufacturing and heavy industry, it has been somewhat of a distant second to first and foremost interacting face-to-face. With in-person business development on and off for the past two years, having an easy to use, up-to-date and informative website – where people can access what they need quickly – has been critical. Our regular clients have experienced YOY growth in website traffic. Of course, there have more efforts to create content to attract people to the site and paid activities have played a key role in reaching target markets. Prior to COVID, many of our clients were first – or one of the first – to be actively playing in the online space in their markets, and they now face stiff competition with their peers forced into this arena. Growing traffic in this environment has been tough but hugely important to see businesses through. We don’t expect this competition to go away – the change has been widespread and now competitors are well-versed in the online space, fighting hard to take eyeballs away from you and your brand.
Finally, what about marketing talent and money during this period? Interestingly we have seen two clear trends:
  • COVID has bought a number of people ‘home’ to the Hunter who may have been working in bigger cities and/or overseas. We (and anyone wanting to buy a house in the area!) have also seen the influx of people moving to the area who have previously lived perhaps in Sydney or Melbourne. All of this has bought talent into the region when it comes to marketing – now whether this is long term and whether the balance against those who will leave the area will stay in our favour is difficult to say. What we can say is we are extremely lucky to have found some great talent to recruit into our clients’ organisations, supply services, or work with us on various projects, however the need for quality marketers remains high. Look after those you have – they’re in demand and being paid well to take on new roles and responsibilities.

  • Marketing budgets have been on a bit of a roller coaster, with some hit, and some staying the same (and increases pretty much non-existent). And we’ve experienced that old catch 22 that when the marketing budget falls, less activities can be executed to reach target markets and therefore less people might be hearing about you in a time when (a) you might not be able to be getting out and about to see them, and (b) your competitors are encroaching on your space more than ever. Things seem to be settling down somewhat however, and most have so far planned strong budgets for 2022.

So that’s just a quick snapshot from the desk of TMM on what we have seen over the past 12 to 24 months. We are extremely grateful to be working with clients who are leading the way when it comes to resilience, adaptability, and innovation, and see the value marketing can play across all three.